Thoughts on VR: Contest Winners Edition

Since Sonicmeal, Ryan Miller, and Tom Paolantonio created the winning VR audio videos debuted at CES 2017, we wanted to get their insights on virtual reality, creativity, and technology for the ARKAMYS Thoughts on VR series.

Posted 05/31/2017 on The future of sound

Earlier this year ARKAMYS used its VR-Play solution to debut three virtual reality videos with spatial audio produced by the winners of our 360 video with 360 audio contest. These exciting videos from Sonicmeal, Ryan Miller, and Tom Paolantonio were a hit at CES 2017. Recently, we caught up with the contest winners to get their creative viewpoints on VR.

ARKAMYS: What made you want to submit your work to ARKAMYS for this VR audio contest?

Sonicmeal: When we found out about the ARKAMYS contest we had just finished our first complete production, so we thought that entering the contest was a good idea to have a feedback from more experienced VR professionals.

Ryan Miller: I haven’t been too happy with most of the audio I’ve heard on 360 videos, even with music pieces from big VR companies, so I wanted to put my work out there too. I think 360 recordings of orchestral and jazz music might be able to capture the ear of young listeners in a way that sound alone cannot, so most of my work so far has been with music.

Tom Paolantonio: When I first heard that ARKAMYS was hosting a 360 video sound design contest, I was very excited. One of the many hurdles I have found myself facing in spatial audio is a lack of high quality content to be able to work on. The contest gave me a bit of extra motivation to reach out to my colleagues to come up with a good idea that we would be able to shoot with relatively low cost and would really showcase first order Ambisonics [FOA].


ARKAMYS: Why is 360 audio so important for truly immersive VR?

Sonicmeal: 360° audio is essential for a truly immersive. With stereo audio the user would immediately notice that something’s wrong and that the sound does not match the visual.

Ryan Miller: We aren’t typically conscious of how much sound impacts our sense of space, but it definitely does. I think capturing Ambisonic audio on set as a foundation is really important for VR.  Some scenes would simply take far too long to re-create in post as you might do on a traditional movie.

Tom Paolantonio: High quality spatial audio brings a level of depth and realism to VR which just isn’t obtainable with more traditional channel-based formats.  Our brains are so incredibly well conditioned to perceive even the slightest imperfection in the reality around us. It is a survival instinct. We somehow know that if something doesn’t look quite right or if something doesn’t sound quite right, then something must be wrong.


ARKAMYS: What technology is the VR audio landscape missing that would inspire your work?

Sonicmeal: VR is a fast-growing tech industry and everyday new hardware and software comes out. In terms of audio, we’d like to see a format standardization, maybe with HOA [Higher Order Ambisonics] to have a more detailed representation. We’d also like to see HOA microphones, maybe with internal digital converters so you don’t have to carry so many cables.

Ryan Miller: Since the HRTF models and processing for binaural make such an impact on our ability to localize sound sources, it would be fantastic if companies can come up with solutions for personalized HRTF scans, and then if developers allowed us to input our custom HRTFs in each application for binaural rendering.  It would also be fantastic to mix and edit with the headset on, which is sort of possible right now using special software, but it’s still not a great workflow and user experience.

Tom Paolantonio: The workflows for working with 360 video are still in their very early days. Creating tools that would allow for seamless transitioning between your physical DAW/Control Surface and the virtual reality space would be a huge advantage. I think that it is absolutely fantastic that companies such as ARKAMYS are promoting the importance of spatial audio and developing tools and workflows that allow creativity to blossom.

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest VR audio interviews, content, and technology? Follow our VR 360 Audio page on LinkedIn or contact ARKAMYS today.

For more information on the contest winner, be sure to check out their websites: SonicmealRyan Miller, Tom Paolantonio